Norman Bluhm 1921 - 1999 American Abstract Expressionism/ New York School Painters
On returning to the United States after serving as a U.S. Army Air Force B-26 bomber pilot in World War II, Norman Bluhm abandoned his former ambitions in architecture for painting (prior to the war, Bluhm had studied at the Armour [Illinois] Institute of Technology, in Chicago, under Mies van der Rohe). By 1946 Bluhm found himself back in Europe, first for a year’s study at the Academy of Fine Art, in Florence, before he proceeded to Paris, where in 1947 he enrolled at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and the École des Beaux-Arts. Staying on in Paris to 1956, Bluhm developed an expressionist and abstract approach to landscape painting that prepared him well for his return that same year to New York City, where he would slip rather effortlessly into the artistic circles of the flourishing New York School. Bluhm had missed the actual debut of Abstract Expressionism in New York in the early 1950s; nevertheless, fully at home in the new “action-based” aesthetic of painters like Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock, Bluhm was classed a “second generation” member, his work—along with that of Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Joan Mitchell, Robert Rauschenberg, and Mark Di Suvero—serving to expand and deepen Abstract Expressionism’s original, historic accomplishment. His first solo show was with Leo Castelli gallery in 1957 (he would show at Castelli again in 1960); that same year he bought property in East Hampton (others concurrently acquiring property in the region included Willem de Kooning and John Ferren). After being based in New York and the upstate town of Millbrook, Bluhm settled permanently in the 1980s in East Hampton—only at arm’s length, as it were, from the triumph in Manhattan of a Neo-Expressionist aesthetic. Bluhm’s own work of the period evidences a new sense of architectural order, a development that is attributable perhaps not only to his early studies in architecture, but in part to the East End’s historically uncluttered sight lines.